How Important Are Gradings?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussions' started by Kevin, Jun 27, 2012.

  1. arron butler

    arron butler Fist of Fury

    My gradings were very important to me,As they showed how much i progressed from the last one.Iwas very proud of myself when i got my 1st dan,as i did fail the 1st time round due to girlfriend problems.But that was over 20 years ago do show how you much you have progressed through your techniques, your fitness,and sparing skills.So yes gradings are important i think.
  2. Sam Philpott

    Sam Philpott Initiate

    From a personal perspective i feel that gradings do not matter or that for the most part for the individual they should not be the main attainment. I think that there can be a danger that to much emphasis can be placed upon getting that grade, by the student and that it is more important to focus on the art it self and not to be preoccupied with attaining a symbol of status that can lead to a false sense of ability. By this I mean that there is always some one better than you at some thing and you should not forget or neglect the simple basics of your art because those are the foundations upon which you build and the student needs to always practice those what ever colour belt or level they have gained. The level you reach is more of a personal experience and is different for every one and I think it is more important to know yourself and abilities which are always changing and not to put them in a 'box' so to speak..or 'grade'. Its a personal journey and with out a belt system or grade, other students can see and know the levels in which you have reached. In a real situation if you rely on the knowledge that Im a purple belt in this or black belt in this style then it can be a false sense of security because the street is very different than fighting in a training environment.
    I am in no way disrespecting any ones achievements with grading or rank because i do see the benefits of it to set goals and motivate younger students or to show new students that a club has experience and it is good for business/ over all standard etc. And also that some arts have specific kata's or forms which have to be performed to gain the belt so this in itself is a skill. But purely from a personal feeling, I get more satisfaction focusing on training and self knowledge and experiencing myself grow and progress without the outside goal of rank. From this I believe that 'Grade' or status is naturally earned as a bi product of gaining in skill anyway.
  3. Sam Philpott

    Sam Philpott Initiate

    I am not saying i am against gradings i am just trying to get across that it is not as important to me as the self knowledge and knowing of my own skills. I do not feel that a grade can be all that u attain in an art.
  4. Kevin

    Kevin Admin Staff Member

    Fantastic post Sam. I would agree with you 100%.

    I've shared this story before but it's worth repeating. Around 3-4 years ago I went down to our local sports centre to do training with a friend I used to work with. He paired me up against a guy who had been doing muay thai for 9 months. At this point I had been training in Taekwondo for several years. The drill was to stay in close and box slowly. I never got my ass kicked but he was certainly much much better than me. Before starting the drill I had assumed I would be better due to my years of experience though it wasn't the case. I'm sure I would have done better if the drill was at a longer range as that is what I had experience with, though this just illustrated the need to train outside of my comfort zone. Belt level and number of years training is mostly irrelevant in situations like that.

    The worst thing any martial artist can do is get an ego. It breeds complacency.

    Once again, great post. I couldn't have put it better myself :)
    Mario Paul and Sam Philpott like this.
  5. RJ Clark

    RJ Clark Tree Ninja Staff Member

    I pulled the above because of how important I think that is. That's why I bring in other instructors, wrestling coaches, boxers, firearms instructors, etc to my school. No matter how good I think/know my skill set is in any of those areas, myself and my students can learn from them and it helps keep me from getting into a comfortable pattern of training. Part of the requirements for advancing to brown belt is training at a different school, gym or other training facility.

    Not an original quote but very true: Complacency kills.
    Kevin likes this.
  6. Aaron Hutto

    Aaron Hutto Master

    Even though I teach primarily Chinese martial arts (which do not usually use a belt system), I do award belt ranks. I also have a background in Kenpo, Kajukenbo and Jujitsu and teach aspects of those as well.

    I do not have my students test for their belts. I award rank when they are ready. The only thing that the students know that they have to learn for their belt is the form(s). I have other criteria but I do not let them know what it is. The reason is actually my younger brother. He is the type that would say, I learned everything for my belt. I am ready to test. A monkey can learn a list of moves. I want to see that they can do them well not just go through the motions. Not only do them well but actually use them. I feel that rank should not be something that you "earn" as much as it is recognition from your instructor. I also have found that it keeps the students humble if they do not know what it is that they did for their belt.

    I do not have many belts. I adopted my belt system from my years of training with the Kenpo Brotherhood Association of Hawaii. My younger students (5-9) are always white belts. I give them colored stripes on their belts for certain achievements. My older students and adults follow this rank system: White Orange Purple Blue Green Brown 1st Dan. If a student moves up to the older class from the younger class, he or she will wear a yellow belt until it is time for them to earn orange. This is to show the difference between them and 'new' white belts.
  7. Kevin

    Kevin Admin Staff Member

    @Aaron - I can understand why gradings are so important for younger students, which is perhaps why many organisations offer stripes and sashes to students etc. I like the idea of students staying white belt until they are 10 too.

    A lot of people believe that tests don't teach students anything. They only teach someone how to do well in a test.
  8. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    By the way, on the subject of belt advancement, with the spread in popularity of BJJ and sub grappling competitions, in BJJ, the trend is to make it even harder to get belts. Some consider this sand-bagging, where a blue belt who clearly should have been promoted to purple by now is still competing in the blue belt division. Part of the reason for this is because BJJ schools are often judged on how competitors do in competition. So instructors hold back on advancing students because they don't want a poor showing in competition to reflect on the teacher or the school. The good side to this is that you know that belts still mean something in BJJ and are usually reflective of skill.
    Kevin likes this.
  9. Aaron Hutto

    Aaron Hutto Master

    Much like testing in school, people cram for tests. I find that more students give 100% all the time if they think that they could be testing at any moment.
    WonderingFist likes this.
  10. Master Fahy

    Master Fahy Samurai

    I would like to add that after the student is selected, it is their's to fail! I wouldn't select them if I thought they weren't ready for the next belt/level. I also look at it this way.... the student needs to perform under pressure to really know that they can perform if they need to. It's like going to a tournament or competition, everyone who competes doesn't win, some have to lose! Right! A good martial artist learns something even if he loses. If they are just given the belt without testing, they are missing out on the pressure that they have to perform in front of others! Master Fahy
  11. BHRobin

    BHRobin Disciple

    I think grading is pretty much part and parcel of martial arts, except for what I know of Jeet Kune Do. It can be a great motivator - a black belt is the end goal of most people who join a class, even if they end up stopping long before they make it.

    I would actually say there's very little drawbacks in the system as a system. There will always be people who get black belt who are nothing more than thugs, or people who get their belt in a McDojo or (like me) were allowed a little leeway. (To recap: I had been the oldest in my class by 20+ years until a few months ago, when another adult close to my age (I believe) joined. The young 'uns got me beat in flexibility, strength and stamina. I blew out a knee about four years ago, and because of that am allowed some leeway - when pivoting on that knee I can kick lower, since it's a strain, and in Choong Moo I was allowed to land left foot first in the jump kick rather than both, since the knee buckled that way.)

    (on the other hand, I know all my forms and teach them, have not YET failed to break the boards required, and hold my own when sparring to where at least it's a give and take...don't get me wrong, I fully realize I'm the lowest of the black belts in many ways, but still feel I have earned what I got.)

    But what would another option be? No ranks at all equals pretty much chaos.
  12. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    How do you figure?

    Boxing has no ranking or belt system. Wrestling has no ranking or belt system. Kickboxing has no ranking or belt system. Muay Thai has no ranking or belt system. I am sure there are many other arts out there that don't either.

    Listen, I am not "anti-belt" or necessarily "anti-grading" -- but the idea that a martial art cannot exist without it or that it takes something away from the martial art I disagree with.
    rockstarpc and RJ Clark like this.
  13. BHRobin

    BHRobin Disciple

    I was more thinking of a huge class of many different skills. Doesn't boxing generally equal one on one training, more or less - not one teacher for 20-30-40 people? Kickboxing and Muay Thai may not have ranks as in belts, but surely they have divisions of skill or experience? Or does everyone in the class do the same forms/exercises/spars?
  14. Ben

    Ben Master

    I love gradings. Gradings are the scariest and most amazing times of my life in the 11-week period leading up to it, during it and afterwards. The reasons being:
    1)During the period leading up to a grading, training intensifies significantly. We do much more line work and kata training, and it is...well...intense! We can do the line drill for the grading, and cover technique so extensivly, we spend an hour working on line drills and STILL not even be a full quarter of the way through. Kata is even more intense, as the stances MUST be held. if you are caught moving, then you'll be made to sit in the stance for longer! PAIN! SWEET PAIN!...okay slightly masochistic. ANYWAY i digress!
    2)Before the grading, I have NOTHING in my head except the grading. And I love having my head empty of all things except my passion for Karate. I pour over youtube videos of the grading syllabus, I scour pages and pages of Master Gichin Funakoshi's wisdom. I watch a video of the kata I need to perform on a loop for DAYS. I love becoming engrossed, absorbed and obsessed with Karate.
    3)During the grading, I love to perform my skill infront of my sensais. My teachers have a lot of my respect, and I enjoy little more then showing them that I am passionate, I am a karateka, and I take everything they have taught me to heart. With every bead of sweat, I feel that I am somehow showing them that Karate is somethign very dear to me and that I'm not just a hobbyist that is gonna quit after I get my next belt and gets too impatient for black.
    4)After the grading, my new belt for me is like...a new phase in life itself. When I was in my old school I ghot up to yellow belt. Acheiving green this time round for me was "the point of no return" and everything beyond that for me is just another step to realising the first of the dojo kun within myself. "Seek perfection of character."
    useablender, Deborah and Schubertdog like this.
  15. Ian White

    Ian White Samurai

    Gradings to me were a measure of each students advancement. Making sure they were progressing in skile level and ability.
    Each student is different and some go quicker than others. My main concern as their teacher was to ensure they were growing and improving, as a teacher its all you can do.
    Deborah likes this.
  16. Deborah

    Deborah Ninja

    I think gradings especially in Black Belt are important Kev. It stops you stagnating, always making you strive for the best you can be......respects my friend XXxxXX
  17. useablender

    useablender Initiate

    The thing about Gradings is... it's about the journey, where we've come from "the past" or "our beginnings", where we are now..
    "the present" and of course, where we're going, "our future, hope even"..Especially in the beginning.. the belt/grade
    has it's place as motivation for the beginner or, a fixation for the student with nothing else going on:rolleyes: and a responsiblity
    of leadership on the teacher/instructors part.
    At some point the student comes to understand for him or her self, it's not the about the belt/grade anymore and it becomes
    a journey,.. for some of us we don't recognise it as such, untill, we've done a couple of Gradings.. my two cents aanyway:)
    Enkidu likes this.
  18. Kevin

    Kevin Admin Staff Member

    How do members feel about gradings for those that have been injured or have simple been away from training for a while. We've had people come back to the club after a few years of absence and even though they have blue or red belts round their waist, they fight like white or yellow belts as they haven't done any training since leaving the club.
  19. Sam Philpott

    Sam Philpott Initiate

    It depends i think. I would like to think they would still have knowledge and some wisdom to impart to the lower belts even if they havnt trained in ages. So they would still deserve that respect but it largely depends on the person, I would expect some one who was serious about their art to still keep some practice in the basics unless of injury of coarse. But there are other ways you can train. You can study the art interlectualy but not pysicaly take part if u get my drift? What ever art u do it definately is a journey but a personal one...if belts help the person then great. If some one has not trained for a very long time and returns, perhaps a good way would be to let them prove them selves again by training and setting various tests for them to show if they have regained their previous level etc. But done over a time period that is agreed?
  20. Sam Philpott

    Sam Philpott Initiate

    Sorry kevin...think i miss-understood your gradings for long time absentee's is how it should be after a training refreasher period. Its wrong to think u can just jog back in after a long period and think that even if u havnt trained, u still r this or that.....if u dont train and drill it u lose it over time. It stops being second nature.

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